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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Volunteers lend hand to Costa Rican seminary

Thursday, October 25, 2001

The Volunteers In Mission team, consisting of the Rev. Bill Koch, Susan Culver, Joe Munger, Anita Sharp, Harry Sharp and Marilyn Lambert, recently traveled to Costa Rica.
SIKESTON - With tools in hand and Christ's love in

their hearts, a group of local residents recently

traveled to Central America to pay a visit to Bible


Leaving Oct. 1 and returning Oct. 9, the Rev. Bill

Koch, Susan Culver, Joe Munger, Marilyn Lambert and

Harry and Anita Sharp comprised a group representing

the First United Methodist Church in Sikeston.

"This was a construction project in a small seminary,

the Latin America Bible University, in San Jose," said

Koch. "We were there to do remodeling of married

student apartments."

The trip was part of Volunteers In Mission, a ministry

of the Missouri Area United Methodist Church

coordinated by the Office of Creative Ministries in


According to VIM, "it seeks to make a Christian

difference by sharing the love of Christ through our

participation in short-term mission activities." Those

activities could be local in Missouri, or some place

like Costa Rica, nestled between Nicaragua and Panama

in Central America.

It was a return trip for Koch, who had previously

headed up a group from his former pastorate, the

Cameron (Mo.) United Methodist Church. In fact, a

group from that church was also present for this VIM


"This was the first trip sponsored by the (Sikeston)

church," Koch said, hoping to continue the Volunteers

In Mission effort.

"It's a very rewarding experience and for some a very

life-changing experience," he said.

"You learn about a different culture. People may look

different and speak a different language but they are

the same like us. They have the same desires, worship

the same God and have similarities of faith."

The seminary trains pastors to serve churches in

Central and South America and actually maintains 18

campuses. During three years of study, students are

required to spend 2-4 months on the campus at San

Jose. In addition, the seminary provides Bible studies

for any lay person.

"It provides pastors for many different

denominations," Koch said, noting students from Church

of God, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Nazarene and

Baptist churches were in attendance in addition to

United Methodist students.

The VIM team began the day with breakfast before

proceeding to devotions and then getting to work. The

remodeling work consisted of tearing out ceilings of

two two-bedroom apartments, measuring some 800 square

feet. The ceilings were replaced with new tile, walls

were painted, and the kitchens and bathrooms rewired.

The apartments were also prepared for new cabinets and


"We had a language barrier but through smiles, hand

signals, the little Spanish we knew and the little

English they knew, we could communicate and learn to

work together," Koch said.

The trips are arranged to perform some work functions,

but they don't require construction experience to take


Culver added: "I consider myself an unskilled laborer

and I worried that there would not be enough for me to

do but I was able to pitch in."

But she learned apartments were not the only things

being remodeled.

"It is neat to get together with people from your

congregation and do things with them. You develop

relationships that can sustain your local church," she


"There is also an emphasis in building relationships

with people and the chance to display our love for

Christ," Koch stated.

After work was completed for the day, the team would

eat supper and spend their evenings reading, doing

devotions, visiting with missionaries, students and

each other. There was no TV, no radio and limited

Internet (e-mail) access. The group also attended a

student graduation ceremony.

Temperatures ranged from 86 in the daytime to 65 at

night. With no flying insects, residents have no

screens on their windows which are usually left open.

"Though it was the rainy season, we didn't have that

much rain until the very end of the trip," Koch said.

The scenic locale in the northern highlands also

provided an opportunity to view some of the most

exotic landscape in the world. A trip to a national

park offered an up-close look at an active volcano;

other sights included wild poinsettias and colorful


Like the others, Culver was captivated by the

country's beautiful scenery.

"It's just a wonderful place to be," she said. "They

countryside was so beautiful. Everything was so lush

and green.

"I'd move there," she joked.

The trips away from the seminary also allowed for

interaction with local residents.

"It was remarkable the number of people who were not

cocooned inside their homes but were outside on the

porch talking. We saw firsthand just how friendly they


"We felt very safe and secure the whole time we were

there," he said.

Culver agreed, saying that although some portions of

the city were crowded and traffic was bad they never

felt in danger.

"The people were warm and friendly. When we left it

was a very trying time for our country and the people

there were supportive of us," she said.